The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Medications are used to control symptoms of low back pain and sciatica. The medications are listed by their generic name.
Common names include: Naproxen
These drugs work to control inflammation, which produces pain. Some prescription NSAIDs are higher doses of the same NSAIDs that are available without a prescription.
Possible side effects include: Gastrointestinal bleedingStomach upsetFluid retentionLiver damage
Some prescription NSAIDs (such as, celecoxib, meloxicam) have been associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Other studies show that some NSAIDs may cause complications in patients recovering from stroke, heart attacks, or open heart surgery. NSAIDs can also interfere with the actions of other drugs. Be certain your physician is aware of all drugs you take, including herbs and supplements even if you only take these occasionally.
Common names include: CodeineOxycodone
Prescription pain pills may be prescribed short-term for severe pain.
Possible side effects include: DrowsinessConstipationDecreased breathing
Common names include: FluoxetineDuloxetineAmitriptyline
Antidepressants may also be prescribed for chronic low back pain.
Possible side effects include: Blurred visionWeight gainDry mouthLightheadedness when standing
Do not stop taking these drugs without checking with your doctor.
Common names include: CyclobenzaprineDiazepam
Muscle relaxants help calm muscle spasms. They may be ordered for short-term pain relief.
Possible side effects include: DrowsinessLightheadedness
Common names include: Naproxen sodiumIbuprofen
These drugs work to control inflammation, which produces pain.
Possible side effects include: Gastrointestinal bleedingStomach upsetLiver damageFluid retentionInteraction with other drugs, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, blood thinners, and drugs to treat hypertension. Check with your physician to be certain that NSAIDs will not interact with other drugs you might be taking.
Acetaminophen relieves pain through different biological mechanisms. It is not an NSAID. It can cause or exacerbate liver problems if recommended doses are exceeded. Do not drink alcohol while taking this drug. Do not take more than the recommended dose. Acetaminophen is unlikely to cause side effects associated with other pain medications such as gastrointestinal upset, fluid retention, and constipation.
Contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms: Pain that doesn't improve, or worsens, with restPain that is severe or that has gotten dramatically worseProgressive weakness in a leg or footDifficulty walking, standing, or movingNumbness in the genital or rectal areaLoss of bowel or bladder controlBurning or difficulty with urinationFever, unexplained weight loss, or other signs of illness
Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions: Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.Do not stop taking prescription medication without talking to your doctor.Do not share prescription medication.Ask what results and side effects to expect. Report them to your doctor.Some medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if your child is taking more than one medication. This includes over-the-counter medication and herb or dietary supplements.Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
Low back pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00311. Updated December 2013. Accessed December 15, 2015.
Oltean H, Robbins C, van Tulder MW, et al. Herbal medicine for low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(12):CD004504
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
website. Available at:
Updated November 3, 2015. Accessed December 16, 2015.
Santos J, Alarcao J, Fareleira F, et al. Tapentadol for chronic musculoskeletal pain in adults.
11/12/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116935/Chronic-low-back-pain. US Food and Drug Administration. FDA clears Cymbalta to treat chronic musculoskeletal pain. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
Published November 4, 2010. Accessed November 12, 2010.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Laura Lei-Rivera, DPT
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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